Anita Ebersole told members of the City Council on Tuesday afternoon that she is withdrawing her name as the appointee for City Court Clerk due to controversy over the appointment by Mayor Ron Littlefield.
Judges Russell Bean and Sherry Paty had opposed the appointment, saying the mayor was naming his administrative assistant to the post so she could get higher retirement pay. They said the appointment should be made by the new mayor.
Ms. Ebersole told council members she did not want to put them in the position of having to vote on whether her appointment should be confirmed.
"No vote is necessary," she said.
She denied that the move was aimed at giving her a higher retirement, saying that is based on her highest three years of salary, which she has already vested.
Ms. Ebersole said the clerk's office "is not under the judges. It's under the department of finance." She said Finance Director Daisy Madison had asked her several weeks ago to consider taking the post. She said she eventually agreed, and she paid her own way for a training course on municipal courts.
She defended her "work ethic, skills and experience" and said she often works late to help city constituents. She said she hopes to continue in some position with the city.
Mayor Littlefield then was critical of the two judges, saying they have "behaved very unprofessionally" in the matter of the clerk appointment.
He said the judges had opposed numerous ideas for improving the court, including a recent plan to make the office paperless. He said, in response, he had told them "they can keep their paper and rubber stamps for as long as they want."
Mayor Littlefield said of city court, "There is no more glaring example of office inefficiency" and he said that was mainly due to the judges. He said he "gets depressed" when he visits the "grim operation."
Judges Bean and Paty then sought to respond, but Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd cut off the discussion soon after the mayor's remarks and after comments by Councilwoman Deborah Scott, saying there had been a concerted move to do away with city court.
Councilwoman Scott said, "We heard the executive administration give this damnation of the city court judges and we are not going to give the city judges a chance to respond."
Judge Bean had spoken earlier before the mayor, saying, "This is not about Anita Ebersole. She's a nice lady."
Ms. Ladd said it was not the time for a full discussion on the city court operation and there was a long agenda ahead. She said, "Judge Paty, the discussion has gotten far out of where it needed to be. We are going to get into back and forth and back and forth."
She said all sides "were wrong to say these things in public about each other. You ought to do it in private."
Judge Bean said later, "I've been run out of better places."
He said, "I've been a judge for 13 years and I have always had a great relationship with the mayors through the Kinsey and Corker terms and for the first term of Mayor Littlefield. Then everything changed with the McKamey Animal Center case when the mayor called Sherry and she reported him.
"Since then he has continually come up with things to keep the court in turmoil. All I want to do is do my job."
Judge Bean said of the decision not to let the judges speak, "I certainly don't rule that way, and Sherry doesn't rule that way in court. We always let both sides have their say."
Judge Paty said, "It's amazing that he could continue his tirade for five minutes and we weren't allowed to speak."
She said of the outgoing mayor, "10,000-plus people who wanted to recall him can't be wrong."